Borussia Dortmund are looking to mount pressure on league leaders Bayern Munich when they take on 1. FC Koln on Sunday.

Despite eliminations from the UEFA Champions League, DFB Pokal and UEFA Europa League, Borussia Dortmund have been on a roll in the Bundesliga since the turn of the year. Even though they have been ravaged by injuries at every turn, the Ruhrpott giants have performed reasonably well and are only seven points adrift of Bayern Munich at the top of the league table, with a game in hand.

Their back-to-back wins over Arminia Bielefeld and 1. FSV Mainz have served as a major confidence booster, and Marco Rose’s men will be eyeing a similar result when they take on 1. FC Koln on Sunday.

This crucial encounter at RheinEnergieStadion comes after Bayern Munich’s comfortable win against Union Berlin on Saturday, which increased the Bavarians’ lead to seven points at the top of the Bundesliga table. A win for Dortmund on Sunday will set it back to just four.

However, they are set to face strong resistance from a Koln side led valiantly by the charismatic Steffen Baumgart. The former Paderborn coach has led the team exceptionally well this season, with the Billy Goats currently sitting seventh in the league table.

Koln succumbed to a 2-0 defeat to Dortmund in the reverse fixture, but the job could get much trickier for the Black and Yellows at the buzzing RheinEnergieStadion.

Team News & Tactics

1. FC Koln

1. FC Koln are missing a slew of key players heading into this game, including Ellyes Shkiri and captain Jonas Hector. One is currently injured while the other is ill, joining Florian Kainz, Marvin Obuz, Dejan Ljubicic, Tim Limperle and Kingsley Schindler in the club’s long list of absentees.

Coach Baumgart also faces a tactical dilemma. While he is expected to continue with his 4-1-3-2, he could be forced to switch to a back three if Borussia Dortmund employ a similar formation. This could make things difficult, especially without the services of the versatile Hector.

The club captain is expected to be replaced by Jannes Horn, whereas Salih Ozcan could be asked to deputise for the injured Shkiri in the holding midfield role. The homegrown talent may not have much support in the middle of the park though, which could see Ondrej Duda dropping deeper than usual.

Mark Uth and Jan Thielmann are set to occupy the remaining attacking slots, offering supply to the strike duo of Sebastian Andersson and Anthony Modeste. The presence of two tall centre-forwards up front could make life difficult for the Dortmund defence, which often appears susceptible to set-pieces.

Probable Lineup (4-1-3-2): Schwabe; Schmitz, Killian, Hubers, Horn; Ozcan; Thielmann, Duda, Uth; Andersson, Modeste

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Borussia Dortmund

Marco Rose’s pre-match team update was far from positive from Borussia Dortmund’s perspective. Marco Reus was expected to come back for this weekend’s encounter, but the club captain remains ill at home. Manuel Akanji is unlikely to feature as well, whereas Mats Hummels and Raphael Guerreiro are doubts.

Of the players doubtful to feature against Koln, Guerreiro is the likeliest to start, having returned to team training this week. Rose, though, is expected to keep him as an option on the bench and continue with the full-back duo of Felix Passlack and Nico Schulz. Marin Pongracic and Emre Can are set to continue in central defence as well, owing to their exceptional performance against Mainz.

In midfield, Mahmoud Dahoud will have to serve a suspension after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in the last game. His absence could be consequential for Dortmund, and the onus will be on Axel Witsel to fill in for him in the holding midfield slot.

Giovanni Reyna could be granted a start in the absence of Dahoud. The American international is expected to form the three-man Dortmund midfield alongside Jude Bellingham and Thorgan Hazard, who may get the nod ahead of Marius Wolf. Julian Brandt is another option, should Rose opt to rotate his squad.

As for the attacking department, Erling Haaland could finally make his return to the starting eleven. The Norwegian superstar could resume his strike partnership with Donyell Malen, hoping to make life difficult for the depleted Koln defence this weekend.

Probable Lineup (4-1-3-2): Kobel; Passlack, Can, Pongracic, Schulz; Witsel; Reyna, Bellingham, Hazard; Haaland, Malen

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Key Stats

  • Koln forward Anthony Modeste has scored braces to end two goal droughts this season, each lasting for three or more games.
  • 1. FC Koln are yet to win or concede a penalty in 26 matches in 2021/22.
  • Erling Haaland has 16 goals in 16 Bundesliga games this season and four in three meetings with Koln.
  • Marco Reus has produced seven goals and seven assists in 15 appearances against Koln.
  • There have been 36 goals in the previous nine meetings between the clubs on Koln’s home soil – an average of four per game, with each team scoring at least once.

Player to Watch

Erling Haaland

Erling Haaland. (Photo by Marco Verch)

Gunning for a goal. (Photo by Marco Verch)

Erling Haaland is certainly the player to watch in this fixture. The Norwegian is set to make his return to the starting eleven after yet another injury layoff. The youngster has only featured in 16 league games this season, scoring 16 goals. His last two appearances were as a late substitute in the second half, with the striker failing to score in both of them.

As a result, Haaland’s goalscoring tally at Dortmund has fallen behind the number of appearances for the first time in a while. However, he will have the opportunity to change that when Dortmund take on a depleted Koln side. His physical and aerial prowess inside the box could make life difficult for the Billy Goats, and his performance could go a long way in dictating the fate of the Dortmund team this weekend.

Prediction

1. FC Koln 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund have improved a lot defensively in recent games. It appears the complete overhaul in the defensive unit is turning out to be quite useful for Marco Rose. The current set of defenders, being only fringe players at the club, have opted to take a no-nonsense approach that has drastically reduced the defensive errors.

With Dortmund likely to employ the same defensive unit, we expect the Black and Yellows to keep yet another clean sheet this weekend. As for their attack, the return of Haaland and Reyna should see them comfortably bag at least a couple of goals at the RheinEnergieStadion.

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